As news of violence and brutal attacks on students and teachers started pouring in from JNU on Sunday evening, we were desperately looking for fellow reporters to try and get a sense of what was happening. One of my colleagues was already inside the campus so we decided to go to the north gate campus (the higher security main JNU entrance close to the administrative bloc). This was around 8 pm, more than an hour after the attack started. The road had been barricaded and no vehicles were allowed in.
We thought it curious that no street-lights were functioning.
Since access for our OB vans was important, we decided to go to the nearby Vasant Kunj police station, which was deserted. The lone duty officer and woman constable informed me there had been numerous calls and the entire police force was at the JNU campus. The situation was "under control", they said.
Given all the reports claiming quite the opposite, we decided to check that statement for ourselves.
This time, we tried the West Gate, but the police blocked our entry, again.
Some said the Delhi Police had a brief not to allow the NDTV crew inside. When we succeeded in gaining entry with the help of some students, police inspector Ravinder Rawat, on spotting us, shouted at my cameraperson Prasad and me and warned us against going any further.
The police asked us to go back to the main North Gate.
We were not the only ones stopped at the gates. Ambulances, frantic parents, teachers and students were also in the same boat until good sense finally prevailed on the cops.
At the main campus gate it was a completely different scenario. One would have thought that with students and teachers under attack, the police would rush to the rescue. Instead, as I walked into the pitch-dark JNU campus around 9 pm, at a spot where the teachers were planning to address the media, horror stories had started emerging.
The mob was still on the campus, we learnt, and it was far from safe.
Being from NDTV - already threatened multiple times - I did worry but I shoved the feeling aside to go and report the protests outside the gate with my own camera.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Under the cover of darkness and unhindered by the Delhi Police, anti-social elements had somehow taken control of the situation. They were heckling and beating not only politician-activists Yogendra Yadav and Tehseen Poonawalla but even ordinary students, especially women, who bravely lashed back at the abusive slogans.
I saw, to my horror, Yogendra Yadav getting slapped and kicked. He fell onto a road divider. Even in that state, he was dragged and pushed by the police.
These hooligans appeared to have tacit help from the police and were trying to make it look like a clash rather than an attack, which it actually was.
Shockingly, the media was also targeted; some students were also heard abusing channels seen to be pro-government.
I kept asking the unruly slogan-shouting group whether they were students and where they were from. "We are from Bharat," was their response to every question.
They were an organised mob and had a clear agenda to give the impression of a clash between students. They kept shouting nationalist slogans. When the cameras were off, they seized the chance to manhandle, heckle and beat students and political leaders.
At around 10.30 pm, a senior police commissioner made an attempt to enter the campus and finally, the Delhi police force barred the group that had enjoyed a free pass for hours. Everyone thought the police would now bring the situation under control.
Instead, all they did was to give their senior officer cover as he entered the campus.
In the meantime, the beating and heckling became worse and as leaders like D Raja and Yogendra Yadav returned to the spot, the lawless elements became active again. This time it was worse and the police finally intervened, asking the leaders to go back. They refused, preferring to stay put and show their solidarity for the students and teachers who had been attacked.
In a gesture of solidarity, students of the Jamia Millia University - where violence erupted over the citizenship law last month - joined the rest of the students outside the campus at around 11.30 pm. Suddenly, the street lights came back on and the anti-social elements started retreating, but by then, the damage had been done.
No thanks to the police who were in protective helmets but were mostly ineffective when it came to protecting those who were being beaten in and outside the campus.
(Sunil Prabhu is Resident Editor, NDTV 24x7)
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